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Robert Beltran: "The prime directive is fascist crap."

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The only problem is that we live in a universe in a constant state of eventual entropy and decay; death is (sadly) the ultimate fate of all creatures; sooner or later.  Where do you draw the line?   

Not saying that saving life is a bad thing, but if you prevented a certain asteroid from colliding with Earth 65 million years ago, we wouldn't today have Star Trek... or human beings.  We'd still be in the era of the dinosaurs.   See what I mean?  Life is a chain.  Sometimes we only see the links in front of us, but we don't (or can't) see the points that the chain connects together (or works to keep from colliding).

What if the tribe (the ONLY tribe of people on that entire planet, I guess?  Hehe) on Nibiru were destined to be wiped out to make way for a more promising species?  The universe may never know.   We (as a people) don't possess the wisdom or foresight to know what might eventually happen (or be the best possible thing) for that planet...

 

Well, I personally think the UFP should take the risk and save lives now. Despite the coulds, maybes, possibies, etc. I draw the line on the here and now (well... in Star Trek times lol). Picard and the Enterprise could save that little alien girl THEN. What may come later? Come what may. Archer could have saved that alien species then. What may come later? Come what may. Janeway could have ... oh don't get me started. Kirk and Spock could save the the tribal aliens right then. What may come later? Come what may.

Now, I think your argument has a lot of merit that we could be doing way more damage with the constant interfering because of our very limited scope on time. Our inability to understand how far reaching the repercussions are of saving alien race A or B. But if the UFP is to have a standard of "NO PLAYING GOD. PERIOD." Then they need to buckle down on it once and for all. Rather than have this captain say yes or that captain say no. It looks like favoritism.

I wonder if it is up to the individual captain. As far as I know, Picard was not reprimanded for saving that alien girl's planet. And we know Janeway was NEVER punished because she became an admiral ....

Plus, it makes the UFP look god-like in another way. If the UFP opts to never help an alien race/world that hasn't reached their standard of sentience (inventing the warp drive), it makes it look like some alien worlds are just a part of nature and not something worthy of assistance. Something to ignore unless we want to put a duck blind to study the "primitives".

It reminds me of how Kai Winn challenged Sisko and asked if the UFP would protect Bajor at the expense of Federation worlds. Sisko admitted honestly that he wasn't sure if they would. Essentially, confirming to Winn that Bajor is lesser to the UFP than Vulcan or Betazed. Is that not a form of bigotry in of itself?

Put in the context of modern times. If a horrible flood was destroying a tribal group of people in one part of the world and the West did nothing to help but they would rush to help victims of an earthquake in the West - people would (perhaps rightfully?) say "You value one set of lives over the other." If the UFP will run to save the Vulcans because they have the warp drive, but not the tribal aliens... doesn't that look bad? Do the tribal aliens spontaneously have worth once they invent the warp drive?

I agree with what you're saying on a philosophical level. That the repercussions could be very bad. It actually seems like a lesson Q would teach humanity in our constant meddling for the greater good. Maybe I am wrong and this could lead to a lot misery in the future. Maybe even the near future. I agree with you that the STID aliens may have gone to launch an inquisition to the rest of their planet within one generation... I guess I'd just prefer to err on the side of life.

For what it's worth - the PD always brings out the best debates in Trek (IMO).

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kenman   

I think that it was brought up in some episode, maybe Pen Pals, but who is to say that one race dying might not lead to the creation of another race that could also become sentient...its playing God...who are they to decide some lifeform on a planet is worth saving from a natural disaster. Having the power does not mean one should always weild it. You never know what the consequences could end up being. As Picard said in Pen Pals, the Prime Directive isn't just some arbitrary set of rules, it is meant to protect the Federation from interfering and screwing some natural development up, and it is to protect that culture from their own natural development. 

If a planet is dying, what truly gives Picard the right to save it, to play God and decide it should live. What if the race that ends up surviving becomes super powerful space nazis that take over the Alpha Quadrant...and if Picard just let it alone, maybe he could've saved billions of lives.

That is the moral dilemma, that is what makes it intriguing. I like that it makes me think and wrestle with a question. I don't like when it is used as an arbitrary excuse or is just ignored because it is inconvenient to the story being told. But I can see both sides of the Prime Directive ideal, and I think it probanly makes more sense than it doesn't as a rule for the Federation, explore - but don't interfere...because that power is dangerous, and drawing the line can be difficult. 

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I think that it was brought up in some episode, maybe Pen Pals, but who is to say that one race dying might not lead to the creation of another race that could also become sentient...its playing God...who are they to decide some lifeform on a planet is worth saving from a natural disaster. Having the power does not mean one should always weild it. You never know what the consequences could end up being. As Picard said in Pen Pals, the Prime Directive isn't just some arbitrary set of rules, it is meant to protect the Federation from interfering and screwing some natural development up, and it is to protect that culture from their own natural development. 

If a planet is dying, what truly gives Picard the right to save it, to play God and decide it should live. What if the race that ends up surviving becomes super powerful space nazis that take over the Alpha Quadrant...and if Picard just let it alone, maybe he could've saved billions of lives.

That is the moral dilemma, that is what makes it intriguing. I like that it makes me think and wrestle with a question. I don't like when it is used as an arbitrary excuse or is just ignored because it is inconvenient to the story being told. But I can see both sides of the Prime Directive ideal, and I think it probanly makes more sense than it doesn't as a rule for the Federation, explore - but don't interfere...because that power is dangerous, and drawing the line can be difficult. 

You argue what if they become "space nazis"? That is one possibility out of an endless list of possibilities. That is like saying humanity should be left to die because they could become the next Dominion or Borg. .... OR they could become the next UFP. A peaceful, exploratory organization. Who are we to allow a species to die because they might turn into the next evil bad guys? They might also turn into the next good guys. Why err on the side of death rather than life?

Your argument essentially boils down to this - let an alien race die out when you have the power to save them because another alien race might come about .... What if another alien race doesn't come about? Then you allowed the original aliens to die on a single possibility that could or could not happen. At least in the case of Archer and Phlox, there really was a second alien species whos evolution was supposedly being hindered by the "sick" aliens. In most other cases, it is a moot point to dream of another race evolving in the absence of the original one. How can one advocate for the extinction of an alien race on such a low variable possibility?

(Not to mention that if a planet is breaking apart - like in Pen Pals - no other alien race will "evolve" in the absence of the dead alien species. Nothing will be left...)

This is not academic to the alien races dying out. It's academic to the aliens that are far from harm and have the ability to easily save lives. This is their survival and if an organization that prides itself on its "humanitarianism" picks and chooses who dies ... then that is playing god. Also, as I stated above, leaving them to die is playing god too. Just a lazy, uncaring, evil god that had the power to stop extinction but did nothing because these aliens hadn't created a warp drive soon enough before a natural disaster came for them.

Edited by The Founder

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Sim   

I think that it was brought up in some episode, maybe Pen Pals, but who is to say that one race dying might not lead to the creation of another race that could also become sentient...its playing God...who are they to decide some lifeform on a planet is worth saving from a natural disaster. Having the power does not mean one should always weild it. You never know what the consequences could end up being. As Picard said in Pen Pals, the Prime Directive isn't just some arbitrary set of rules, it is meant to protect the Federation from interfering and screwing some natural development up, and it is to protect that culture from their own natural development. 

If a planet is dying, what truly gives Picard the right to save it, to play God and decide it should live. What if the race that ends up surviving becomes super powerful space nazis that take over the Alpha Quadrant...and if Picard just let it alone, maybe he could've saved billions of lives.

That is the moral dilemma, that is what makes it intriguing. I like that it makes me think and wrestle with a question. I don't like when it is used as an arbitrary excuse or is just ignored because it is inconvenient to the story being told. But I can see both sides of the Prime Directive ideal, and I think it probanly makes more sense than it doesn't as a rule for the Federation, explore - but don't interfere...because that power is dangerous, and drawing the line can be difficult. 

You argue what if they become "space nazis"? That is one possibility out of an endless list of possibilities. That is like saying humanity should be left to die because they could become the next Dominion or Borg. .... OR they could become the next UFP. A peaceful, exploratory organization. Who are we to allow a species to die because they might turn into the next evil bad guys? They might also turn into the next good guys. Why err on the side of death rather than life?

Your argument essentially boils down to this - let an alien race die out when you have the power to save them because another alien race might come about .... What if another alien race doesn't come about? Then you allowed the original aliens to die on a single possibility that could or could not happen. At least in the case of Archer and Phlox, there really was a second alien species whos evolution was supposedly being hindered by the "sick" aliens. In most other cases, it is a moot point to dream of another race evolving in the absence of the original one. How can one advocate for the extinction of an alien race on such a low variable possibility?

(Not to mention that if a planet is breaking apart - like in Pen Pals - no other alien race will "evolve" in the absence of the dead alien species. Nothing will be left...)

This is not academic to the alien races dying out. It's academic to the aliens that are far from harm and have the ability to easily save lives. This is their survival and if an organization that prides itself on its "humanitarianism" picks and chooses who dies ... then that is playing god. Also, as I stated above, leaving them to die is playing god too. Just a lazy, uncaring, evil god that had the power to stop extinction but did nothing because these aliens hadn't created a warp drive soon enough before a natural disaster came for them.

Good points, I agree!

On the small scale, you have the same problem in our world when it comes to medicine.

Medical doctors have to swear an oath to always help and never harm their patients, and to treat all of them regardless of the person.

A doctor is required to save the life of Hitler or Gandhi alike -- by his oath; his business is medical help, and there is a strict line drawn towards the philosophical implications of his deeds or lack of deeds.

 

And I find it funny that shying away from "playing God" gets so much applause from hardcore atheists here ... if you're atheist, you believe *there is no higher power* that determines the fate of the universe, do you? So whom could you possibly "anger" by "playing God"? There is no "natural order" or fate. The universe is what you make of it.

All you have to do is taking responsibility for your actions or your decision not to act alike. In most cases, you can never know the consequences for sure -- so what kind of weird argument is it to say "let's do nothing, because *possibly*, the consequences might be negative (or not)"? Or even "let's do evil, because doing the right thing might *possibly* have negative consequences (or not)"?

It's a huge but widespread fallacy to assume you only have to take responsibility for your actions -- you have to take responsibility for your inaction just as much. There never is an easy way out by just staying out, ethically speaking.

If you let someone die although you have the means to save his life, you're almost as guilty as the one who killed him. Even our law reflects that.

Now I think the Prime Directive makes perfectly sense when it comes to not meddling into the natural evolution of a species until a certain point, because you cannot take responsibility for the consequences. The same when it comes to taking side in a war (in today's world, the US could probably use a little more of this philosophy -- how often has meddling in a foreign conflict, even with the best intentions, yielded the most unfortunate consequences?).

But when a species was to die out if you didn't help? It makes no sense in this case. Because any possible negative consequence your meddling brings, it's still better than extinction --

their natural evolution is disturbed. So what? Still better they fight unnecessary wars because of your meddling, than being extinct. Or they get access to technology they aren't ready for and might attempt to extinct themselves -- still a better chance for survival than being extinct in the first place. Or they become space Nazis and a lot of people will be angry that you didn't let them die -- well, better some people are angry at you, than taking the burden of responsibility for passive genocide.

Edited by Sim

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This has already been said, but to add my voice to the choir, the PD as a narrative device works better when you ignore Voyager. As an in-universe thing...? Did it ever work? In TOS it was used as a catch-all for "non-interference" except when Kirk felt otherwise. Picard tied himself in diplomatic knots to ignore it or attempt to deal with it but like Sisko, usually allowed his conscience to ultimately be his guide. I suspect the language of the PD was a load of contradictory twaddle designed to curb diplomats and bureaucrats when dealing with new potential trade partners. Because we all know what really happens when an advanced civilization meets a more primitive one. 

But I'm probably being cynical in an ignorant 21st century way. 

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scenario   

PD makes sense overall. I agree that it is wrong in an extinction level event. But in smaller events it is appropriate. When I look at human history I see examples where the PD would have been a good idea. Giving medicine to people in India for very good reasons but then the population goes from 50 million to over a billion in a couple of centuries. Did the medicine make the suffering less or more? I don't know. 

There are lots of examples in the Middle East and the Balkans where there were peoples fighting each other. Then the Ottoman Empire conquered them and put a lid on it. 1000 years later the Ottoman Empire is gone but the fighting goes on. People are killing people in revenge for things that happened 800 years ago. Maybe if they had fought it out and settled it a 1000 years ago the death toll and overall suffering would have been much lower. 

A third party stepping in and trying to solve other peoples problems is as likely to make things worse than better. 

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PD makes sense overall. I agree that it is wrong in an extinction level event. But in smaller events it is appropriate. When I look at human history I see examples where the PD would have been a good idea. Giving medicine to people in India for very good reasons but then the population goes from 50 million to over a billion in a couple of centuries. Did the medicine make the suffering less or more? I don't know. 

There are lots of examples in the Middle East and the Balkans where there were peoples fighting each other. Then the Ottoman Empire conquered them and put a lid on it. 1000 years later the Ottoman Empire is gone but the fighting goes on. People are killing people in revenge for things that happened 800 years ago. Maybe if they had fought it out and settled it a 1000 years ago the death toll and overall suffering would have been much lower. 

A third party stepping in and trying to solve other peoples problems is as likely to make things worse than better. 

^
But in history, even seemingly 'small' events have major repercussions later on.   Pull on one thread, it undoes a tapestry.  

If I were wording the prime directive?  I would allow intervention ONLY in the case of assisting fellow space travelers.  If they're in space, then the arrival of helpful aliens wouldn't be as much of a culture shock as alien overlords (even benevolent ones) taking charge over the fate of their planet (even in 'small' steps).   The temptation to continuously meddle is too strong, especially since you've 'helped' them.

I think the Prime Directive is wise; even if seemingly cowardly (on the surface).   If contact with the alien species has already happened, then sure (no risk of further culture shock if they're already aware of the Federation's existence, right?).  But if not, then no.  That culture must continue to be what they were, without any outside influences. 

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PD makes sense overall. I agree that it is wrong in an extinction level event. But in smaller events it is appropriate. When I look at human history I see examples where the PD would have been a good idea. Giving medicine to people in India for very good reasons but then the population goes from 50 million to over a billion in a couple of centuries. Did the medicine make the suffering less or more? I don't know. 

There are lots of examples in the Middle East and the Balkans where there were peoples fighting each other. Then the Ottoman Empire conquered them and put a lid on it. 1000 years later the Ottoman Empire is gone but the fighting goes on. People are killing people in revenge for things that happened 800 years ago. Maybe if they had fought it out and settled it a 1000 years ago the death toll and overall suffering would have been much lower. 

A third party stepping in and trying to solve other peoples problems is as likely to make things worse than better. 

^
But in history, even seemingly 'small' events have major repercussions later on.   Pull on one thread, it undoes a tapestry.  

If I were wording the prime directive?  I would allow intervention ONLY in the case of assisting fellow space travelers.  If they're in space, then the arrival of helpful aliens wouldn't be as much of a culture shock as alien overlords (even benevolent ones) taking charge over the fate of their planet (even in 'small' steps).   The temptation to continuously meddle is too strong, especially since you've 'helped' them.

I think the Prime Directive is wise; even if seemingly cowardly (on the surface).   If contact with the alien species has already happened, then sure (no risk of further culture shock if they're already aware of the Federation's existence, right?).  But if not, then no.  That culture must continue to be what they were, without any outside influences. 

I agree. IMO the prime directive is only wrong in extinction level events or maybe near extinction level events. If the entire race is going to die than risking change is the lesser of two evils. The Federation should stay out of anything smaller until the culture is mature enough to handle second party interference. Warp drive is an arbitrary dividing line but what line wouldn't be? 

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PD makes sense overall. I agree that it is wrong in an extinction level event. But in smaller events it is appropriate. When I look at human history I see examples where the PD would have been a good idea. Giving medicine to people in India for very good reasons but then the population goes from 50 million to over a billion in a couple of centuries. Did the medicine make the suffering less or more? I don't know. 

There are lots of examples in the Middle East and the Balkans where there were peoples fighting each other. Then the Ottoman Empire conquered them and put a lid on it. 1000 years later the Ottoman Empire is gone but the fighting goes on. People are killing people in revenge for things that happened 800 years ago. Maybe if they had fought it out and settled it a 1000 years ago the death toll and overall suffering would have been much lower. 

A third party stepping in and trying to solve other peoples problems is as likely to make things worse than better. 

^
But in history, even seemingly 'small' events have major repercussions later on.   Pull on one thread, it undoes a tapestry.  

If I were wording the prime directive?  I would allow intervention ONLY in the case of assisting fellow space travelers.  If they're in space, then the arrival of helpful aliens wouldn't be as much of a culture shock as alien overlords (even benevolent ones) taking charge over the fate of their planet (even in 'small' steps).   The temptation to continuously meddle is too strong, especially since you've 'helped' them.

I think the Prime Directive is wise; even if seemingly cowardly (on the surface).   If contact with the alien species has already happened, then sure (no risk of further culture shock if they're already aware of the Federation's existence, right?).  But if not, then no.  That culture must continue to be what they were, without any outside influences. 

I agree. IMO the prime directive is only wrong in extinction level events or maybe near extinction level events. If the entire race is going to die than risking change is the lesser of two evils. The Federation should stay out of anything smaller until the culture is mature enough to handle second party interference. Warp drive is an arbitrary dividing line but what line wouldn't be? 

This. Me coming down and proclaiming myself God and imposing my will? Obviously bad because I've messed with the people, and years and millions of lives spent in service of my ego before some sort of balance is reestablished. John Gill was completely wrong.

But...a rock the size of Texas you could divert from slamming into a pre-industrial world? No real reason not to.

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The problem with the prime directive in Star Trek are the writers. They used an umbrella term (like sports or religion) to represent a multitude of ideas that are radically different. It's an incredibly lazy short hand on their part. It's used as a dramatic device to stir debate where none need be. At least ... not always. For example, what Sisko did to the Romulans in the Dominion War. He clearly violated it but he did it for what he considered a greater good.

That's why on the one hand - the PD makes sense - such as not giving the Ba'ku quantum torpedoes or the Bajorans a tricobalt device. One is non-space faring and the other is. Either way - it is why it is a great idea for the UFP not to hand out dangerous explosive devices.

It's why the PD makes sense in having Picard not embrace "The Picard" god status given to him by the pre-warp Vulcanoids. Same for Sisko with his Emissary status. Or doing what those Ferengi did in VOY by pretending to be prophets.

The PD makes sense in not having the UFP swoop in even space-faring alien races' politics. It would be bad if the UFP turned into the CIA and assassinated democratically elected leaders to make way for a "human-friendly" candidate. Or even nothing as drastic as murder but sending people to influence the elections. 

It's also good to not have Captain wantonly violate the space of aliens. Respect boundaries/borders. Otherwise, you make an enemy of an entire quadrant like Janeway did.

Or take sides in a war that has nothing to do with the UFP. In the case of VOY again, Janeway sided with the Borg over Species 8472. Yes, Janeway got peace with them later on but she condemned alien species to fall to the Borg as stated by that bulbous headed alien (ugh I can't remember any names lately).

Of course - the above are all good reasons to have a directive to ensure that Starfleet officers exploring the unknown have a metric to go by. Archer could at least get away with saying he didn't have that and had to make it up as he went along.

The aspect of the prime directive that is disconnected from the above is:

Letting an alien race drop into extinction when you have the power to save them. It is one thing to say "death is part of life and we can't save everyone." Of course - I agree with that. An alien race at the outer fringes of the Delta Quadrant suffering extinction is doomed. The UFP can't be everywhere. But when you are on (or in orbit of) a planet ... and can save them. Then it is up to you to save them ...

I wish they went into it more with Beltran about it. I went back to reread the article and he doesn't really say why he hates the idea. What I also find interesting is he is clearly a mestizo (descended from indigenous peoples of the Americas). I honestly thought, perhaps a bit too stereotypically, that he would hate the idea of a "foreign" group interfering in the affairs of another considering the history of this continent. I wish I could understand why, from his perspective, he hates the PD. But judging from his quote, it seems that what he hates is the extinction part of it - just like me.

Good points, I agree!

On the small scale, you have the same problem in our world when it comes to medicine.

Medical doctors have to swear an oath to always help and never harm their patients, and to treat all of them regardless of the person.

A doctor is required to save the life of Hitler or Gandhi alike -- by his oath; his business is medical help, and there is a strict line drawn towards the philosophical implications of his deeds or lack of deeds.

 

And I find it funny that shying away from "playing God" gets so much applause from hardcore atheists here ... if you're atheist, you believe *there is no higher power* that determines the fate of the universe, do you? So whom could you possibly "anger" by "playing God"? There is no "natural order" or fate. The universe is what you make of it.

All you have to do is taking responsibility for your actions or your decision not to act alike. In most cases, you can never know the consequences for sure -- so what kind of weird argument is it to say "let's do nothing, because *possibly*, the consequences might be negative (or not)"? Or even "let's do evil, because doing the right thing might *possibly* have negative consequences (or not)"?

It's a huge but widespread fallacy to assume you only have to take responsibility for your actions -- you have to take responsibility for your inaction just as much. There never is an easy way out by just staying out, ethically speaking.

If you let someone die although you have the means to save his life, you're almost as guilty as the one who killed him. Even our law reflects that.

Now I think the Prime Directive makes perfectly sense when it comes to not meddling into the natural evolution of a species until a certain point, because you cannot take responsibility for the consequences. The same when it comes to taking side in a war (in today's world, the US could probably use a little more of this philosophy -- how often has meddling in a foreign conflict, even with the best intentions, yielded the most unfortunate consequences?).

But when a species was to die out if you didn't help? It makes no sense in this case. Because any possible negative consequence your meddling brings, it's still better than extinction --

their natural evolution is disturbed. So what? Still better they fight unnecessary wars because of your meddling, than being extinct. Or they get access to technology they aren't ready for and might attempt to extinct themselves -- still a better chance for survival than being extinct in the first place. Or they become space Nazis and a lot of people will be angry that you didn't let them die -- well, better some people are angry at you, than taking the burden of responsibility for passive genocide.

I couldn't agree more with everything you just said. Perfectly said. And good point on the modern laws stating that inaction can be considered a form of action as well.

I can't add anything because you said it so well but I did want to address one point: your comment about atheists. I think that is one of the biggest reasons I feel so strongly about this. To me, life (while random) is so complex in its formation. Against all odds, these amino acids formed and this and that. Against all odds, life managed to survive enough to become upright. Against all odds, we didn't extinct ourselves in primitive wars. Against all odds ... we are here. I feel like "How dare I let something as precious as life (a unique alien life too) be wiped from the cosmos because later on they might do something bad?"

All alien life (in Star Trek at least) seem to have the capacity for good or evil. Even the peaceful Vulcans have a dark side. Why allow one alien race to die out because later on they might express their evil side? The UFP apparently is teeming with "evil" admirals that desire to militarize Starfleet. Should the UFP die because it is always on the cusp of a military coup?

And you're right, Sim - since I don't believe a god exists to swoop in and solve all of our problems or that there is a lovely after life waiting for all those who die - it is IMPERATIVE that we save each other and make life more bearable.

There is a line that can be straddled between letting an alien race deal with growing pains on its OWN and leaving them to be wiped out.

Edited by The Founder

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Sim   

 

I can't add anything because you said it so well but I did want to address one point: your comment about atheists. I think that is one of the biggest reasons I feel so strongly about this. To me, life (while random) is so complex in its formation. Against all odds, these amino acids formed and this and that. Against all odds, life managed to survive enough to become upright. Against all odds, we didn't extinct ourselves in primitive wars. Against all odds ... we are here. I feel like "How dare I let something as precious as life (a unique alien life too) be wiped from the cosmos because later on they might do something bad?"

(...)

And you're right, Sim - since I don't believe a god exists to swoop in and solve all of our problems or that there is a lovely after life waiting for all those who die - it is IMPERATIVE that we save each other and make life more bearable.

I hope it's not yet KM territory when I just say that even though I am religious, I very much identify with this view. The God you don't believe in, I don't believe in either. ;) IMO, God doesn't just swoop in and solves our problems, that's not how it works -- perhaps you could say my view is more "mystic", it's related to your very feeling of awe about the odds and wonders of the universe, and it's exactly this kind of feeling I'd call "spirituality".

Personally, I feel religion without spirituality is an empty shell and defies its purpose, as ideally, religion should be a path or guideline towards spirituality. A religion that's reduced to a rigid, authoritarian list of "do's" and "do not's", is absolutely superfluous. And I rather feel a connection to atheists with a sense of spirituality, than to religious people of the aforementioned type.

Edited by Sim

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Not stopping a 50 kilometer rock from hitting the planet doesn't make any sense. A huge rock strike is not the normal development of a planet,

But what if you have a culture that is at the level of the middle ages. They are in the middle of a plague which will kill 1/4th of the population. When you talk to the natives, they tell you plagues like this hit every 20 to 30 years for as far back as they can remember. Their grandparents, grandparents, grandparents talked about plagues in their day. Should the Federation step in?

But what if they have evolved to be in this type of environment? They average 15 children per couple and birth control is not an option for some biological reason.  If they can't move millions of people into space every year or allow millions to die, they all will, is it right to interfere?

Interference can easily have unintended results. 

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Hammer   

In a situation where the a Federation ship has traveled back through time, I would be against modifications which would change the present as they know it. What if some alien species went back 65 million years and saved Earth from the Chicxulub impact? It's not likely that we would have intelligent dinosaurs, they had 180 million years to reign and didn't evolve higher intelligence, what difference would another 65My make? We can't interfere in the past development of a species so I agree with the Temporal Prime Directive.  

However, in the present, we have an obligation to help when it comes to extinction level events. From our perspective in space-time, the future is unwritten. Who are we to say how it should or shouldn't unfold? Humans certainly didn't appreciate how Vulcans held back technology from us, leading to resentment. I would lower the first contact threshold from possessing Warp drive to a much lower tech level. I don't think that people living today would be unable to handle first contact, although it would be the biggest news story in recorded history. I would certainly use duck-blind technology or undercover operatives to see how they would react first though before revealing our existence. We can't put the cork back in the bottle once its popped.

If Earth is typical of life-bearing planets, the evolution of intelligence is rare. There's been life on Earth for ~4By, but we only know of a handful of species in history of Earth that could pass the mirror test and may be self aware; Great Apes, dolphins, orcas, a single Asian elephant and the only non mammal was the Eurasian Magpie. If scientists could just switch on a gene to give chimpanzees human level intelligence, wouldn't it be our obligation to do so? If we have the power, but withhold it, I think that would be playing god and elitist, trying to keep the chimps down while we dominate the planet.

While warping around the galaxy, we might find that we are the only species in the Milky Way doing so. Does that mean that we should never contact anyone? We are attempting to contact other civilizations already with projects like SETI, so in the present we are breaking the PD. By sending out radio waves into space, aren't we just polluting the natural development of any species which may pick up our signals? By the time we are warping around the galaxy, it might be a moot point because the aliens have already picked up our broadcasts from the 20th and 21st century. 

Edited by Hammer

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Not stopping a 50 kilometer rock from hitting the planet doesn't make any sense. A huge rock strike is not the normal development of a planet,

But what if you have a culture that is at the level of the middle ages. They are in the middle of a plague which will kill 1/4th of the population. When you talk to the natives, they tell you plagues like this hit every 20 to 30 years for as far back as they can remember. Their grandparents, grandparents, grandparents talked about plagues in their day. Should the Federation step in?

But what if they have evolved to be in this type of environment? They average 15 children per couple and birth control is not an option for some biological reason.  If they can't move millions of people into space every year or allow millions to die, they all will, is it right to interfere?

Interference can easily have unintended results. 

To me - the line is drawn at extinction. As you rightly pointed out - an asteroid slamming into a planet isn't really the "normal development".

Beyond that? I would say the UFP should step aside.

So if they suffer a bad bubonic-esque plague - let it happen. Some are bound to survive like we did.

If they suffer devastating world wars? Let them deal with it. Because the power will be in their hands to stop the wars. Hell - one could argue that World War III officially was ended by the presence of Vulcans ... So ... did they interfere with us?

In a situation where the a Federation ship has traveled back through time, I would be against modifications which would change the present as they know it. What if some alien species went back 65 million years and saved Earth from the Chicxulub impact? It's not likely that we would have intelligent dinosaurs, they had 180 million years to reign and didn't evolve higher intelligence, what difference would another 65My make? We can't interfere in the past development of a species so I agree with the Temporal Prime Directive. 

VOY disagrees. The Voth supposedly evolved from dinosaurs. :P

But I see what you're saying and agree definitely that flying back in time to alter development would be wrong.

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Not stopping a 50 kilometer rock from hitting the planet doesn't make any sense. A huge rock strike is not the normal development of a planet,

But what if you have a culture that is at the level of the middle ages. They are in the middle of a plague which will kill 1/4th of the population. When you talk to the natives, they tell you plagues like this hit every 20 to 30 years for as far back as they can remember. Their grandparents, grandparents, grandparents talked about plagues in their day. Should the Federation step in?

But what if they have evolved to be in this type of environment? They average 15 children per couple and birth control is not an option for some biological reason.  If they can't move millions of people into space every year or allow millions to die, they all will, is it right to interfere?

Interference can easily have unintended results. 

To me - the line is drawn at extinction. As you rightly pointed out - an asteroid slamming into a planet isn't really the "normal development".

^
That thinking would've ended the human race; Earth would've been populated by dinosaurs today.

Who's to say what the 'normal' development of a planet really is, anyway?    Billions of years ago, a planet roughly the size of Mars slammed into early Earth.   As a result of that collision, we today have THE MOON.   That thing that gives us tidal/geological stability, and poets and early astronomers a nice focal point;  not to mention a clear goal for the early space program (a program that arguably wouldn't have existed with the dinosaurs in charge...).

Just saying.   

So if they suffer a bad bubonic-esque plague - let it happen. Some are bound to survive like we did.

If they suffer devastating world wars? Let them deal with it. Because the power will be in their hands to stop the wars. Hell - one could argue that World War III officially was ended by the presence of Vulcans ... So ... did they interfere with us?

In a situation where the a Federation ship has traveled back through time, I would be against modifications which would change the present as they know it. What if some alien species went back 65 million years and saved Earth from the Chicxulub impact? It's not likely that we would have intelligent dinosaurs, they had 180 million years to reign and didn't evolve higher intelligence, what difference would another 65My make? We can't interfere in the past development of a species so I agree with the Temporal Prime Directive. 

VOY disagrees. The Voth supposedly evolved from dinosaurs. :P

But I see what you're saying and agree definitely that flying back in time to alter development would be wrong.

^
I have to agree with Hammer on this one; the dinosaurs, as Jeff Goldblum so famously said, "Had their shot... and nature selected them for extinction."    They dominated the Earth's ecology for hundreds of millions of years (humanity has only been around in its present form for about four million) with no real 'progress' (as humanity measures it, anyway).   Saving them would've denied the opportunity for growth that befell the warm-blooded, cunning rodents living in the crevices that survived in their wake... the rodents that, 65 million years later, became humanity.   Who saw THAT coming?

The point is that when we do what 'feels' right, we make mistakes on a cosmic scale.   Even in a ST-like future, I would argue that we still wouldn't have the foresight (or intelligence) to continually remake the universe in 'our own image' as it were.   Maybe on an evolutionary scale, humanity is NOT the ideal.   

Let's say a race of sentient humanoid beings is facing nuclear devastation;  the Enterprise prevents it.   The next species in line for development in a post-nuclear war scenario would've been a race of radiation-proof insectoids that would've been a BETTER steward to their planet than the short-lived, impatient and hostile apes that caused its near obliteration.  Congratulations, Enterprise... you just gave the planet back to the angry apes in the hopes that they would try again. 

Again... just saying.

My point is that we can't know ALL the possible outcomes of the universe.   We've only been around for the tiniest fraction of its existence.   Yes, we've done remarkable things, but we've also (disastrously) altered our planet on a global scale and have eliminated hundreds of thousands of other species by our actions. Maybe humanity is NOT the ultimate achievement of the universe, after all... 

 

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scenario   

Not stopping a 50 kilometer rock from hitting the planet doesn't make any sense. A huge rock strike is not the normal development of a planet,

But what if you have a culture that is at the level of the middle ages. They are in the middle of a plague which will kill 1/4th of the population. When you talk to the natives, they tell you plagues like this hit every 20 to 30 years for as far back as they can remember. Their grandparents, grandparents, grandparents talked about plagues in their day. Should the Federation step in?

But what if they have evolved to be in this type of environment? They average 15 children per couple and birth control is not an option for some biological reason.  If they can't move millions of people into space every year or allow millions to die, they all will, is it right to interfere?

Interference can easily have unintended results. 

To me - the line is drawn at extinction. As you rightly pointed out - an asteroid slamming into a planet isn't really the "normal development".

^
That thinking would've ended the human race; Earth would've been populated by dinosaurs today.

Who's to say what the 'normal' development of a planet really is, anyway?    Billions of years ago, a planet roughly the size of Mars slammed into early Earth.   As a result of that collision, we today have THE MOON.   That thing that gives us tidal/geological stability, and poets and early astronomers a nice focal point;  not to mention a clear goal for the early space program (a program that arguably wouldn't have existed with the dinosaurs in charge...).

Just saying.   

So if they suffer a bad bubonic-esque plague - let it happen. Some are bound to survive like we did.

If they suffer devastating world wars? Let them deal with it. Because the power will be in their hands to stop the wars. Hell - one could argue that World War III officially was ended by the presence of Vulcans ... So ... did they interfere with us?

In a situation where the a Federation ship has traveled back through time, I would be against modifications which would change the present as they know it. What if some alien species went back 65 million years and saved Earth from the Chicxulub impact? It's not likely that we would have intelligent dinosaurs, they had 180 million years to reign and didn't evolve higher intelligence, what difference would another 65My make? We can't interfere in the past development of a species so I agree with the Temporal Prime Directive. 

VOY disagrees. The Voth supposedly evolved from dinosaurs. :P

But I see what you're saying and agree definitely that flying back in time to alter development would be wrong.

^
I have to agree with Hammer on this one; the dinosaurs, as Jeff Goldblum so famously said, "Had their shot... and nature selected them for extinction."    They dominated the Earth's ecology for hundreds of millions of years (humanity has only been around in its present form for about four million) with no real 'progress' (as humanity measures it, anyway).   Saving them would've denied the opportunity for growth that befell the warm-blooded, cunning rodents living in the crevices that survived in their wake... the rodents that, 65 million years later, became humanity.   Who saw THAT coming?

The point is that when we do what 'feels' right, we make mistakes on a cosmic scale.   Even in a ST-like future, I would argue that we still wouldn't have the foresight (or intelligence) to continually remake the universe in 'our own image' as it were.   Maybe on an evolutionary scale, humanity is NOT the ideal.   

Let's say a race of sentient humanoid beings is facing nuclear devastation;  the Enterprise prevents it.   The next species in line for development in a post-nuclear war scenario would've been a race of radiation-proof insectoids that would've been a BETTER steward to their planet than the short-lived, impatient and hostile apes that caused its near obliteration.  Congratulations, Enterprise... you just gave the planet back to the angry apes in the hopes that they would try again. 

Again... just saying.

My point is that we can't know ALL the possible outcomes of the universe.   We've only been around for the tiniest fraction of its existence.   Yes, we've done remarkable things, but we've also (disastrously) altered our planet on a global scale and have eliminated hundreds of thousands of other species by our actions. Maybe humanity is NOT the ultimate achievement of the universe, after all... 

 

The question is should the Federation place more value on intelligent life than on ordinary unintelligent life. I think it should. Life formed on Earth almost as soon as it cooled enough to have liquid water. Life was only single celled for the first 3 1/2 billion years. Then 1/2 billion years ago multi cell life appeared. Intelligent life didn't appear until humans, less than a million years ago. There is no reason not to believe that simple single celled life is very common in the universe. On the other hand, it could easily be argued that intelligent life is very, very rare.  The average life of a species on Earth is 10 million years.

If a rock hits a world with only single celled animals, billions would die but life in general would go on as it always did. If it hits a more advanced world like the world of the dinosaurs many species would die but life would go on. If it hit Earth now, intelligent life would almost certainly go extinct. 

If you make the moral judgment that intelligent life is special and must be encouraged, you need to encourage it whenever you see it. To me natural development of planet is measured in billions of years. Natural development of a species is millions of years. Natural development of a civilization is measured in thousands of years.  

Allowing an asteroid to strike a world of single celled organisms is not immoral using natural development with the goal of intelligent life as a criteria. Single celled worlds go on for billions of years. A one in a hundred million year event would happen many many times before a world develops multi cell life. A rock strike may even be necessary to the development of multi cell life. 

The dinosaurs are a middle of the road case. Assuming that there were no dinosaur equivalents of the australopithecus around, the asteroid strike will have no impact for or against the development of intelligent life during the scale of a species lifetime. Chances are whether or not they stopped the asteroid, the space going species would probably be extinct before intelligent life evolved on Earth. 

Now if there is a big rock going to hit the Earth and there is clear evidence of intelligent life there, now the natural development comes in. A big rock like the one that killed the dinosaur only occur every 100 million years or so. There is already an intelligent life form there. Civilizations are measured in thousands of years so a one on a hundred million year event is not a natural event. If you decide to allow the rock to destroy the intelligent species, your species will almost certainly be extinct before the next intelligent species evolves on the planet. It is irrelevant that the next species might be better on some scale of morality. On a different scale of morality, it may be worse. 
 

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Not stopping a 50 kilometer rock from hitting the planet doesn't make any sense. A huge rock strike is not the normal development of a planet,

But what if you have a culture that is at the level of the middle ages. They are in the middle of a plague which will kill 1/4th of the population. When you talk to the natives, they tell you plagues like this hit every 20 to 30 years for as far back as they can remember. Their grandparents, grandparents, grandparents talked about plagues in their day. Should the Federation step in?

But what if they have evolved to be in this type of environment? They average 15 children per couple and birth control is not an option for some biological reason.  If they can't move millions of people into space every year or allow millions to die, they all will, is it right to interfere?

Interference can easily have unintended results. 

To me - the line is drawn at extinction. As you rightly pointed out - an asteroid slamming into a planet isn't really the "normal development".

^
That thinking would've ended the human race; Earth would've been populated by dinosaurs today.

Who's to say what the 'normal' development of a planet really is, anyway?    Billions of years ago, a planet roughly the size of Mars slammed into early Earth.   As a result of that collision, we today have THE MOON.   That thing that gives us tidal/geological stability, and poets and early astronomers a nice focal point;  not to mention a clear goal for the early space program (a program that arguably wouldn't have existed with the dinosaurs in charge...).

Just saying.  

I understand, but that's not exactly what I meant. In the cases shown on Trek, usually there is already a point passed when it comes to the aliens living on a planet. What I mean by that is ... the moral choice isn't .... should a dinosaur equivalent be allowed to live. It is always a human(oid) equivalent being alive and having already built a society/culture but not having the technological means to save themselves. Essentially, the question is never should an alien race have stopped the dinosaur-killing asteroid, but should they stop one headed for us today (when humans are thriving but technologically inferior to space-traveling aliens)

I do agree I erred on saying that asteroids aren't natural. They are. I should have said that I don't really see it as a "development" for a species. Sorry about that.

 

So if they suffer a bad bubonic-esque plague - let it happen. Some are bound to survive like we did.

If they suffer devastating world wars? Let them deal with it. Because the power will be in their hands to stop the wars. Hell - one could argue that World War III officially was ended by the presence of Vulcans ... So ... did they interfere with us?

In a situation where the a Federation ship has traveled back through time, I would be against modifications which would change the present as they know it. What if some alien species went back 65 million years and saved Earth from the Chicxulub impact? It's not likely that we would have intelligent dinosaurs, they had 180 million years to reign and didn't evolve higher intelligence, what difference would another 65My make? We can't interfere in the past development of a species so I agree with the Temporal Prime Directive. 

VOY disagrees. The Voth supposedly evolved from dinosaurs. :P

But I see what you're saying and agree definitely that flying back in time to alter development would be wrong.

^
I have to agree with Hammer on this one; the dinosaurs, as Jeff Goldblum so famously said, "Had their shot... and nature selected them for extinction."    They dominated the Earth's ecology for hundreds of millions of years (humanity has only been around in its present form for about four million) with no real 'progress' (as humanity measures it, anyway).   Saving them would've denied the opportunity for growth that befell the warm-blooded, cunning rodents living in the crevices that survived in their wake... the rodents that, 65 million years later, became humanity.   Who saw THAT coming?

The point is that when we do what 'feels' right, we make mistakes on a cosmic scale.   Even in a ST-like future, I would argue that we still wouldn't have the foresight (or intelligence) to continually remake the universe in 'our own image' as it were.   Maybe on an evolutionary scale, humanity is NOT the ideal.   

Let's say a race of sentient humanoid beings is facing nuclear devastation;  the Enterprise prevents it.   The next species in line for development in a post-nuclear war scenario would've been a race of radiation-proof insectoids that would've been a BETTER steward to their planet than the short-lived, impatient and hostile apes that caused its near obliteration.  Congratulations, Enterprise... you just gave the planet back to the angry apes in the hopes that they would try again. 

Again... just saying.

My point is that we can't know ALL the possible outcomes of the universe.   We've only been around for the tiniest fraction of its existence.   Yes, we've done remarkable things, but we've also (disastrously) altered our planet on a global scale and have eliminated hundreds of thousands of other species by our actions. Maybe humanity is NOT the ultimate achievement of the universe, after all... 

 

Why the concern with the potential life than with the life that is there on the planet? This almost seems a parallel to a modern day debate. Is it because of our own history with the dinosaurs?

As I said earlier, if the planet is breaking up like in Pen Pals then there will not be a secondary alien race that will appear. Does that not render the concern moot?

Plus, as I mentioned earlier with Sim, as a non-believer I don't believe in karma or a "cosmic" fate. Or that alien life B was meant to supersede alien life A. Life is random. Nothing was "meant to happen" - it just does.The only design I believe in is the one we, who are self-aware, create.

And again, inaction is an action in of itself. You worry about repercussions that humans are too temporally limited to understand. Fair enough. But consider the possibility that you may let alien life A die out in the hopes that this was meant to happen to make way for alien life B. Like us with dinosaurs.

But what if, since there are so many variables in evolution, that alien life B is never able to rise? Then alien life A was left to die for no reason and now all life on that world is extinguished. I see no difference in erring on the side of the alien life that I can see, I know exists, and I know is fighting for their survival. Rather than alien life B that is just aan evolutionary potential and may never come to be ...

The reverse of that scenario you presented can also exist. What if you made way for an insectoid alien race that is worse than the war mongering apes? For all you know, the apes may turn into Vulcans and eschew all violence due to their horrible experience with war. The insectoids, however, may feel that the primitive apes of their formerly war torn world are a reflection of the "chaos" that ape-descended aliens bring out. They may want to bring order to chaos like the Founders and subjugate all humanoids.

There are a million and one scenarios that can occur. Why assume that single one?

Also - your example of nuclear war - I wouldn't advocate helping them because that is a disaster they brought onto themselves. So whatever happens to them? That is their own doing. They have the power to stop a nuclear holocaust at any time. One that they would have brought upon themselves. I don't advocate helping an alien species that brought on the catastrophe upon themselves. Because in that case, I agree with you that it would stunt their development if they did not solve their own problems. Especially problems of their own making. They would get into a habit of simply screwing up their world and waiting for the godship to swoop in.

I am talking about a natural occurrence only. An asteroid, geologically unstable world, an atmosphere being stripped away, etc.

I completely agree with you all that interference should be limited. No interfering in wars, politics, social development, etc. Just things they can't possibly have any control over and will be rendered extinct by.

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Why the concern with the potential life than with the life that is there on the planet? This almost seems a parallel to a modern day debate. Is it because of our own history with the dinosaurs?

 

It's not a question of valuing one type of life over another; it's the wisdom of seeing, as Carl Sagan would say, "only one frame of the cosmic movie" and then acting on that insufficient knowledge.   Removing one's self (and one's propensity to meddle) out of the equation may not seem 'morally' correct in the short term, but I don't believe we (as a species) are knowledgable enough to know what is a 'natural' outcome for any random planet.   Even in TNG's universe, humanity has only been out into the galaxy for the last 300 years (with most of that galaxy still unexplored).   We simply don't have all the answers.   Saving life may always seem like the 'right' choice, but we haven't the right to decide what's 'right' for the universe IMO.

I understand, but that's not exactly what I meant. In the cases shown on Trek, usually there is already a point passed when it comes to the aliens living on a planet. What I mean by that is ... the moral choice isn't .... should a dinosaur equivalent be allowed to live. It is always a human(oid) equivalent being alive and having already built a society/culture but not having the technological means to save themselves. Essentially, the question is never should an alien race have stopped the dinosaur-killing asteroid, but should they stop one headed for us today (when humans are thriving but technologically inferior to space-traveling aliens)

^
Yeah, but doesn't have infer a certain 'speciesism' on the Federation's part?   Would we also not be obligated to aid totally incongruous lifeforms?   Or a species at an evolutionary dead-end?   Where does the line get drawn, and just who makes that choice?   

Plus, as I mentioned earlier with Sim, as a non-believer I don't believe in karma or a "cosmic" fate.

 ^
Neither do I.  But I do believe in natural progression and evolution.   When we randomly dabble in the evolutionary cycles of a totally foreign system, we don't know what the consequences could possibly be; even if they seem morally 'correct' in the short term.

Or that alien life B was meant to supersede alien life A. Life is random. Nothing was "meant to happen" - it just does.The only design I believe in is the one we, who are self-aware, create.

^
For ourselves, I would agree.   But does that self-design extend to the ecologies of other worlds as well?  To make them as we 'see fit?'

I completely agree with you all that interference should be limited. No interfering in wars, politics, social development, etc. Just things they can't possibly have any control over and will be rendered extinct by.

^
And again, I agree with you morally; but science is neither moral nor immoral.   It's only a tool.  Scientifically, the mission of the Starfleet should be explore and not to interfere; no matter how strong the moral compulsion.    I don't believe humanity, as a species, knows enough about how the universe works to go blundering about making specialized and selective choices for it.   And yes, morally the Prime Directive reeks of cowardice; but as a scientific principle and a basis for faithful observation, it is sound.    

I would allow intervention ONLY for planets who request Federation aid, or who are aware of the Federation's existence but are currently non-aligned (like Bajor for most of DS9's run); or the Klingons during the Praxis incident (too obstinately proud to ask for Federation assistance, but fully aware that the Federation could help).

But even if I saw a beautiful alien creature running across a green meadow right before an meteorite struck it?   I would take a last photo/spectrograph of it, but I wouldn't save it.    Unless that creature's race was aware of me and asked for my help.   Otherwise my decision to save a creature in a foreign ecology of which I know very little could have ramifications I can't yet foresee. 

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Why the concern with the potential life than with the life that is there on the planet? This almost seems a parallel to a modern day debate. Is it because of our own history with the dinosaurs?

It's not a question of valuing one type of life over another; it's the wisdom of seeing, as Carl Sagan would say, "only one frame of the cosmic movie" and then acting on that insufficient knowledge.   Removing one's self (and one's propensity to meddle) out of the equation may not seem 'morally' correct in the short term, but I don't believe we (as a species) are knowledgable enough to know what is a 'natural' outcome for any random planet.   Even in TNG's universe, humanity has only been out into the galaxy for the last 300 years (with most of that galaxy still unexplored).   We simply don't have all the answers.   Saving life may always seem like the 'right' choice, but we haven't the right to decide what's 'right' for the universe IMO.

Either way you are meddling and acting on insufficient knowledge. Again, inaction is a form of action if you as a Starfleet captain has a starship and the means to stop an asteroid or whatever the catastrophe might be.

I don't advocate intervention in the case of extinction because I think this is the proper or "natural" outcome. I do it because wasting life when I had the power to stop it is something I would never be able to live with. Especially budding life that is struggling to reach a point my species was privileged enough to reach because Earth did not have a catastrophe that wiped out the human race.

I agree and understand we don't have the answers, but I am not advocating saving lives because I think we are the wisest, best people around. I advocate it because what's the point of having the power of Superman if you don't use it to help others?

 

I understand, but that's not exactly what I meant. In the cases shown on Trek, usually there is already a point passed when it comes to the aliens living on a planet. What I mean by that is ... the moral choice isn't .... should a dinosaur equivalent be allowed to live. It is always a human(oid) equivalent being alive and having already built a society/culture but not having the technological means to save themselves. Essentially, the question is never should an alien race have stopped the dinosaur-killing asteroid, but should they stop one headed for us today (when humans are thriving but technologically inferior to space-traveling aliens)

^
Yeah, but doesn't have infer a certain 'speciesism' on the Federation's part?   Would we also not be obligated to aid totally incongruous lifeforms?   Or a species at an evolutionary dead-end?   Where does the line get drawn, and just who makes that choice?   

The line is probably drawn by the same people that said "If you invented warp drive - you're worth saving. If you are in a tribal or industrial phase of living - you're not worth saving."

Who made that line? Why does someone have any value or worth suddenly when they invent faster-than-light travel?

Plus, as I mentioned earlier with Sim, as a non-believer I don't believe in karma or a "cosmic" fate.

 ^
Neither do I.  But I do believe in natural progression and evolution.   When we randomly dabble in the evolutionary cycles of a totally foreign system, we don't know what the consequences could possibly be; even if they seem morally 'correct' in the short term.

A planet cracking apart due to geological instability is not a form of evolution. Nor is a planet with an atmosphere being stripped away, nor a super volcano about to erupt. It's one thing for a species to adapt to mini-ice age (such as Europe had in the past) but I'm talking about a means to save the species as a whole from a disaster they did not create, nor have the means to stop.

Of course I agree that I don't think we should interfere in evolutionary cycles. I would never support such a thing either. You're a 100% right on that.

 

Or that alien life B was meant to supersede alien life A. Life is random. Nothing was "meant to happen" - it just does.The only design I believe in is the one we, who are self-aware, create.

^
For ourselves, I would agree.   But does that self-design extend to the ecologies of other worlds as well?  To make them as we 'see fit?'

I don't want to shape them as I see fit. I just want to prevent their annihilation.

 

I completely agree with you all that interference should be limited. No interfering in wars, politics, social development, etc. Just things they can't possibly have any control over and will be rendered extinct by.

^
And again, I agree with you morally; but science is neither moral nor immoral.   It's only a tool.  Scientifically, the mission of the Starfleet should be explore and not to interfere; no matter how strong the moral compulsion.    I don't believe humanity, as a species, knows enough about how the universe works to go blundering about making specialized and selective choices for it.   And yes, morally the Prime Directive reeks of cowardice; but as a scientific principle and a basis for faithful observation, it is sound.   

The problem is - the Prime Directive isn't used that way. Starfleet interferes in the affairs of other worlds/civilizations ... constantly.

Nor is life in general that way. Developing cures (for ourselves - I'm not even talking about primitive aliens in comparison to the UFP) is a form of altering the natural order. Yet, despite this, we still rush to invent cures or technology that will better our lives.

And saying "how the universe works" does seem to imply that there is some kind of intelligence behind the order. I know that's not your argument, but I'm saying that everything is random. The universe operates alongside certain natural "laws" but it doesn't work in a specific way that will come unraveled this alien race or that one is saved.

However, even if one argues that there is a "meant to be ...." element to it. Then I'll say what Troi said in "Pen Pals" :

"If there is a cosmic plan, are we not part of it? Our presence at this place at this moment in time could be part of that fate." - Troi " Pen Pals"

 

I would allow intervention ONLY for planets who request Federation aid, or who are aware of the Federation's existence but are currently non-aligned (like Bajor for most of DS9's run); or the Klingons during the Praxis incident (too obstinately proud to ask for Federation assistance, but fully aware that the Federation could help).

So if an alien has the means to request aid ... then the natural order isn't made upset? Why not? The post-warp aliens you are saving might turn into the next Borg or Dominion. Why did you save them?

 

But even if I saw a beautiful alien creature running across a green meadow right before an meteorite struck it?   I would take a last photo/spectrograph of it, but I wouldn't save it.    Unless that creature's race was aware of me and asked for my help.   Otherwise my decision to save a creature in a foreign ecology of which I know very little could have ramifications I can't yet foresee. 

The only ramification is that you didn't save an alien creature. That's it. Anything else is just academic or philosophical.

And why did it need to ask for your help? Why is it suddenly worthy of living when it asks for help?

"Your whisper from the dark has now become a plea, we cannot turn our backs." - Picard "Pen Pals"

Is it too difficult to allow someone or something to die if it begs? Of course - I agree but ... even while not asking or pleading, it is still the same being in need of help.

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It's a classical ethical dilemma; in the short term, it seems obvious to want to help.  But longterm, it might not be.   If I were sent on a mission to just observe and not interfere, I would adhere to that directive; no matter what the consequences.  

Again, ideally the Federation should observe with unmanned probes and long-ranges telescopes ONLY.   Putting humans into ships and sending them out into space invites the potential for interference (or even conflict).   Robots don't.  

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It's a classical ethical dilemma; in the short term, it seems obvious to want to help.  But longterm, it might not be.   If I were sent on a mission to just observe and not interfere, I would adhere to that directive; no matter what the consequences.  

Again, ideally the Federation should observe with unmanned probes and long-ranges telescopes ONLY.   Putting humans into ships and sending them out into space invites the potential for interference (or even conflict).   Robots don't.  

You know ... this makes me wonder if maybe the Vulcans in ENT were right after all to fear humans making their way into outer space. Because they knew some humans would not be able to resist interfering. I suddenly am viewing T'Pol's "conservative" stances on human exploration in a completely new light. :)

Edited by The Founder

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I think of the small scale example:

Someone has fallen off a cliff, and it's your choice whether you give him your hand and pull him up, saving his life, or you do nothing and let him fall into his death.

Hardly anyone would argue you are not obliged to help. Ethnics are pretty clear, aren't they?

You wouldn't argue "I refuse to help, because this man might become a serial killer later" (out of the blue, while you know nothing about him -- just because it's a remote possibility). You wouldn't argue "who knows how many people will never be born when he is allowed to live, because the continuation of his life would change the fate of many other people on this world" and let him fall. You would not argue "when he was too weak to prevent his fall, this means the cosmic plan says he is supposed to die, and it's not up to me to 'play God'".

No, if you have the slightest hint of ethics in your heart, you will not even hesitate before taking his hand and saving him.

I don't see how the large scale example, saving an alien civilization from extinction, is ethically any different.

 

As for the "cosmic plan" or "fate" argument: It is a terrible, terrible fallacy to confuse this with an ethical argument. If there is a "cosmic plan", it's about how things are. Descriptive. But ethics are about how things are supposed to be, normative.

Just because things are in a certain way, says absolutely nothing about the question how they are supposed to be.

This confusion of scientific description of nature with an ethical imperative gave us wonderful ideas such as Social Darwinism, Nazi ideology and Holocaust. "Nature shows that the fittest survive. This is the "cosmic plan". So it's good and ethical when the fittest survive and the weak die -- let's put all weak individuals to death, and let's make sure that our actions make us the fittest by subjugating all who are weaker. That's the ethics of nature".

Edited by Sim

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Why the concern with the potential life than with the life that is there on the planet? This almost seems a parallel to a modern day debate. Is it because of our own history with the dinosaurs?

 

It's not a question of valuing one type of life over another; it's the wisdom of seeing, as Carl Sagan would say, "only one frame of the cosmic movie" and then acting on that insufficient knowledge.   Removing one's self (and one's propensity to meddle) out of the equation may not seem 'morally' correct in the short term, but I don't believe we (as a species) are knowledgable enough to know what is a 'natural' outcome for any random planet.   Even in TNG's universe, humanity has only been out into the galaxy for the last 300 years (with most of that galaxy still unexplored).   We simply don't have all the answers.   Saving life may always seem like the 'right' choice, but we haven't the right to decide what's 'right' for the universe IMO.

And who says the "natural outcome" is desirable?

Why stop at staying out, do nothing and just watch -- why not going one step further, and actively aiding nature to unfold the "natural development"? If a comet is supposed to wipe out a culture and gives a different species the space to develop -- why wait for the comet? Why not actively kill the former species to speed up the "natural" process in favor of the latter species?

If "natural outcome" was an ethical category, actively bringing it about would even be more desirable than just choosing to take the responsibility for inaction.

 

I completely agree with you all that interference should be limited. No interfering in wars, politics, social development, etc. Just things they can't possibly have any control over and will be rendered extinct by.

^
And again, I agree with you morally; but science is neither moral nor immoral.   It's only a tool.  Scientifically, the mission of the Starfleet should be explore and not to interfere; no matter how strong the moral compulsion.    I don't believe humanity, as a species, knows enough about how the universe works to go blundering about making specialized and selective choices for it.   And yes, morally the Prime Directive reeks of cowardice; but as a scientific principle and a basis for faithful observation, it is sound.    

I would allow intervention ONLY for planets who request Federation aid, or who are aware of the Federation's existence but are currently non-aligned (like Bajor for most of DS9's run); or the Klingons during the Praxis incident (too obstinately proud to ask for Federation assistance, but fully aware that the Federation could help).

But even if I saw a beautiful alien creature running across a green meadow right before an meteorite struck it?   I would take a last photo/spectrograph of it, but I wouldn't save it.    Unless that creature's race was aware of me and asked for my help.   Otherwise my decision to save a creature in a foreign ecology of which I know very little could have ramifications I can't yet foresee. 

As I said before, the choice to never interfere and stay out, is an action already, and an active choice -- and as such, it has to be judged by ethical standards just like any other action.

Choosing "science which is neither moral nor immoral" as a guideline, IS an active choice -- and by ethical standards, it's evil when it results in inaction when action is the only ethical course of action.

Edited by Sim

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And another thought: If there indeed is a "cosmic plan" of some sorts, be it due to God or fate or anything else -- what could possibly be a greater hubris than claiming that our being here and our capacity to help is somehow not part of this "plan"?

What makes us so exceptional and special to assume it's up to us to choose to not use our power when possible, while all other species using their power is part of the "cosmic plan"?

 

Reminds me of this religious joke: There is a flood, and a man is trapped on the roof of his house, while the water is still rising. There comes a police boat and the skipper tells him: "Jump over, we'll save you". -- "No, God will save me", says the man, and stays on the roof. A while later, there comes his neighbor on a boat: "Jump over, I'll save you!". -- "No, God will save me", says the man, stays on the roof and let's the neighbor pass by. Then the flood rises and the man drowns.

After his death, the man stands at the gate to heaven and meets God. "God, I don't understand, I always believed in you. Why did you not save me?". God replies: "Look, I sent you the police boat, I sent you the neighbor -- what else should I have done to save you?" :P

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